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J.N. Edenberger "Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia as a child (?)", round box with miniature, ca. 1775
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Round snuff-box made of horn with silver mounting and inserted (probably at at a later point) into its lid a charming miniature on ivory, very likely showing the little Prussian Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, future King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia. He is depicted at the age of ca. 5-6, dressed as a Prussian soldier and armoured with gun, while posing by his school-desk.
The son of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm was born in 1770 in Potsdam and became Crown Prince in 1786, when his father ascended the throne.
As a child, Friedrich Wilhelm's father (under the influence of his mistress, Wilhelmine Enke, Countess of Lichtenau) had Friedrich Wilhelm handed over to tutors, as was quite normal for the period. He spent part of the time living at Paretz, the estate of the old soldier Count Hans von Blumenthal who was the governor of his brother Prince Heinrich. They thus grew up partly with the Count's son, who accompanied them on their Grand Tour in the 1780s. Friedrich Wilhelm was happy at Paretz, and for this reason in 1795 he bought it from his boyhood friend and turned it into an important royal country retreat. He was a melancholy boy, but he grew up pious and honest. His tutors included the dramatist Johan Engel.
As a soldier he received the usual training of a Prussian prince, obtained his lieutenancy in 1784, became a colonel in 1790, and took part in the campaigns against France of 1792-1794. On December 24, 1793, Friedrich Wilhelm married Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, a princess noted for her beauty.
He succeeded the throne on 16 November 1797 and at once gave earnest of his good intentions by cutting down the expenses of the royal establishment, dismissing his father's ministers, and reforming the most oppressive abuses of the late reign. Unfortunately, however, he had all the Hohenzollern tenacity of personal power without the Hohenzollern genius for using it. Too distrustful to delegate his responsibility to his ministers, he was too infirm of will to strike out and follow a consistent course for himself. At first he and his advisors attempted to pursue a policy of neutrality in the Napoleonic Wars. Although they succeeded in keeping out of the Third Coalition in 1805, but eventually Friedrich Wilhelm was swayed by the belligerent attitude of the queen, who led Prussia's pro-war party, and entered into war in October 1806. On October 14, 1806, at the Battle of Jena-Auerstädt, the French defeated the Prussian army led by Friedrich Wilhelm, and the Prussian army collapsed. The royal family fled to Memel, East Prussia, where they fell on the mercy of Emperor Alexander I of Russia (who, rumour has it, had fallen in love with Queen Louise).
Alexander, too, suffered defeat at the hands of the French, and at Tilsit on the Niemen France made peace with Russia and Prussia. Napoleon dealt with Prussia very harshly, despite the pregnant Queen's personal interview with the French emperor. Prussia lost all its Polish territories, as well as all territory west of the Elbe, and had to finance a large indemnity and to pay for French troops to occupy key strong points within the Kingdom.
Although the ineffectual King himself seemed resigned to Prussia's fate, various reforming ministers, such as Baron vom Stein, Prince von Hardenberg, Scharnhorst, and Count Gneisenau, set about reforming Prussia's administration and military, with the encouragement of the Queen (who died, greatly mourned, in 1810).
In 1813, following Napoleon's defeat in Russia, Friedrich Wilhelm turned against France and signed an alliance with Russia at Kalitsch, although he had to flee Berlin, still under French occupation. Prussian troops played a key part in the victories of the allies in 1813 and 1814, and the King himself travelled with the main army of Prince Schwarzenberg, along with Alexander of Russia and Francis of Austria.
At the Congress of Vienna, Friedrich Wilhelm 's ministers succeeded in securing important territorial increases for Prussia, although they failed to obtain the annexation of all of Saxony, as they had wished. Following the war, Friedrich Wilhelm turned towards political reaction, abandoning the promises he had made in 1813 to supply Prussia with a constitution.
He died on June 7, 1840. His eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, succeeded him.
This miniature was recognized by our friend, the world-best specialist in portrait miniatures Dr. Bodo Hofstetter (Switzerland) as a work of well-known German-Dutch miniaturist of last third of the 18th century J. N. Edenberger.
J. N. Edenberger was born in Baden-Durlach by Karlsruhe. In the early 1770s he moved to The Haag, where in 1773 he became a member of the Guild of Saint Luke. In 1774/76 he was in England and then again in The Hague.
Provenance: Auction House "William Jenack", Chester, New York, February 3rd 2008, Lot 1117
Box's diameter: 9,6cm/3,8in
Box's height: 2,6cm/1,0in
Miniature's diameter: 7,7cm/3,0in
We are very grateful to Dr. Bodo Hofstetter for his generous help.
Condition: miniature: good, with hairwork (segment of sitter's hair?) on verso; box: some damages (see image)
Creation Year: ca 1775
Object Type:snuff-box with miniature
Style: Portrait Miniatures
Technique: horn, silver, watercolor on ivory, hairwork
Creator: J.N. Edenberger
Creator Dates: b. Durbach (Karlsruhe)-was act. in 1773-1800
Nationality:German / Dutch
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